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What Would You Like to See from Game AI? 272

jtogel asks: "As someone working in new (bio-inspired) AI research with an eye to applications in games, but within an academic setting, I often hear that game developers are not incorporating cutting-edge academic AI into their projects because it's too "risky" (they can't really predict how gamers would react), and because they don't see the point in it. As a gamer, and as someone who cares what gamers think, I am often surprised by the sorry state of current commercial game AI - it has hardly moved since the 1980s. However, maybe the problem is that no-one really knows what we want from game AI. Academics keep coming up with innovative AI technologies, but what we should we use it for? What do you think? What sort of intelligent behavior would you like to see in games, but don't at present? Which are the most obvious intelligence deficiencies of current NPCs that need to be fixed?"
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What Would You Like to See from Game AI?

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  • Turing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:28PM (#15297835) Journal
    For the purposes of this discussion, I will target the two extremes of games. We have game type I in which the game space is very much finite and complete search trees are exploitable and can easily be enumerated.

    Let us take the simple game of tic-tac-toe (three by three) as our game space. Not too hard. Tic-tac-toe, checkers, cognac, are popular games that fall in this category. And when you use AI to its full advantage, the computer rarely loses.

    As we move towards type II games, we see games like chess or go where the game space is too large to search but still 'algorithms' (or heuristics) can be defined that prune the tree space or match/strive patterns out of raw moves. Look up tables are also useful but not really "AI" in the strictest of sense.

    A full fledged type II game would be something like Warcraft or a complex computer game in which the internal engine of the playing board (server in this case) has an innumerable amount of states that it can exist in.

    The NPCs and AI in games like Doom or even Halo are still fairly simple. They rely on heuristics and Euclidean distances (conceptually within the game) to overcome their opponents. If they are faced with obstacles, they deviate from their path.

    Now you ask me what I would like to see. I have very finite desires and I will list them here:
    • AI that learns. I am so sick of AI not keeping a log of encounters. There are many learning algorithms out there and none of them apply to full emersion games (like SWG or WoW) and its because there are too many variables--too many parameters to build the small dimensional vector fields of the Win or Learn Fast (WoLF) algorithm. This isn't the only kind of learning though, what about statistical analysis of prior opponents? "I'm a level 54 mage encountering a level 52 warrior, my odds of survival are x% based on past encounters with warriors two levels below me..." Yes, it's pre-canned statistical analysis but things like this could seriously act as a good heuristic for many games.
    • If you reduce the game space or find some really good heuristic (as in the above), dumb it down. Meet the user's pleasure level. It should be a challenge but not such a challenge that victory is unattainable.
    • Use your imagination. That's all I'm going to say about that one. There is no cookbook for heuristics ... learn to throw things at the user.
    • Introduce long term "bounty hunter" style AI. I would enjoy an AI that sleeps and is constrained like I am. Introduce simple work parsers to our enemies. The closer you can come to interacting with me on the level of a real human, the more I'm going to like it. I know there are robots out there that understand basic human speech, why can't there be games where we receive phone calls or e-mails from assassins in real life? I know this sounds ridiculous, but make me afraid of my foe outside the game. Get in my head.
    • Introduce random variables. I don't care if you have to build in mechanisms to your game that are illogical so that the AI sometimes goofs up. All humans are fallible at a certain point and if you have differing levels of predictability in your AI, the user will love it.

    In the end, my opinion is that the largest deficiency for game AI is that it fails the Turing Test.


    I can easily tell that I'm not playing another human.
    • So what you're saying is, you'd prefer that Ragnaros emerge, kill all of the healers in the raid, then begin picking off the DPS one at a time as they die from a lack of heals? Because he keeps a log of what has happened in the past and he realizes that it's the healers keeping the others alive, so logically he would kill them first? Or, he sees the same 40 people as last week, and decides not to emerge at all, thus denying your guild the loot from another kill?

      That sounds like fun to you?

      • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <(eldavojohn) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:44PM (#15298140) Journal
        So what you're saying is, you'd prefer that Ragnaros emerge, kill all of the healers in the raid, then begin picking off the DPS one at a time as they die from a lack of heals? Because he keeps a log of what has happened in the past and he realizes that it's the healers keeping the others alive, so logically he would kill them first? Or, he sees the same 40 people as last week, and decides not to emerge at all, thus denying your guild the loot from another kill?

        That sounds like fun to you?
        Yes, that's precisely what I said ... to the letter.

        What if Ragnaros changed his strategy (not so that he constantly targeted the healers--because there are rules of aggro in effect in WoW) but what if he followed a markov model built off of spell/counterspell? What if Ragnaros had a little bit of unpredictability built into him?

        What if he slowly remembers which characters (yes, by name) are spec'ed and drinks resistance potions according to their specialty class of magic? This would stop people from camping and grind-looting him (I know camping isn't possible in instances but guilds do the same instance run over and over with the difficulty the same everytime).

        I don't know who Ragnaros is but if he has the ability to move around, why don't they have him become more frantic or hostile if he's seen the same people and remembers them?

        You'll noticed that I said you will find heuristics that make it too hard (like targeting healers first or not emerging) and you have to purposely dumb it down to meet your user's needs.

        I said use your imagination and make things interesting--not figure out how to make NPCs afraid of conflict ... just more wise in their choice of engagement or more wise in their choice of moves.

        That would be my idea of fun.
        • Well, in most games when you encounter someone, you kill them.

          It doesnt make much sense for them to learn from you since they will be dead before they can apply that knowledge. If other characters get to apply their knowledge (unless we are talking about a hive mind here), then they are just cheating since they dont actually have the experiance. When you kill people outside the building, the unsuspecting guys inside shouldnt have already learned the tactics that you used to kill the outside people.


          • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:06PM (#15298508)
            It doesnt make much sense for them to learn from you since they will be dead before they can apply that knowledge

            They do not necessarily need to learn from a specific set of players, but they can learn from what most players do against them. If Ragnoros is supposed to be a very powerful NPC, then it must have killed quite a few PCs along the way. That means he would know alot of the standard tactics, such as the standard Warriors aggro / Mages blast away / Healers heal.

            I honestly do not understand how players in those MMORPGs can have fun doing the exact same thing over and over. If the NPCs would actually fight intelligently then PvE could actually be interesting.

          • The players get to resurrect, so why shouldn't the monsters? What if the monsters only learned a tactic if they survived combat (run or fled), and then made it back to their base and could teach it to their teammates?
        • by lazyl ( 619939 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @09:04AM (#15300232)
          You'll noticed that I said you will find heuristics that make it too hard (like targeting healers first or not emerging) and you have to purposely dumb it down to meet your user's needs.

          Here's the trick. Balancing the encounter. You dismiss it in one sentence like it's easy, but it's by far the hardest part of the entire exercise; far harder than simply developing these ai heuristics you're suggesting.

          These larger 40 player raid encounters have to be carfully balanced so that it's not too hard and not too easy and there's no silly 'ai exploits'. And it has to be fun. Trying to write a fancy ai algorithim that was properly balanced and fun would be a nightmare. There's all sorts of problems, including complaints from guilds who discover that Rag is harder for them then for some other guild because of some wierd ai learning code.

          Ragnaros is the original end boss of WoW. That developers can't screw that encounter up. Scripting the fight is by far the most reliable for the developers to guarantee that the players have fun. Anything else is playing with fire.
      • Re:Turing (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Spaceman40 ( 565797 ) <`blinks' `at' `acm.org'> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:08PM (#15298520) Homepage Journal
        You do realize that half the strategy in an MMO depends on the idiotic AI they're using? That, if the AI was actually intelligent, the games would have to be different?

        You think it's fun because the reason you're winning is that the enemy is too stupid to beat you? You concede that if Ragnaros actually thought about it for a second (even before dying the first time), he would go for the healers first; therefore, you're winning not by strategy or tactics (which are meaningless against a pattern - you're just responding with a pattern at that point), let alone initiative, but by brute strength and strict orders? Where every fight with him is the same as any other - random patterns aside?

        Personally, I'd rather fight a much weaker (but much smarter) boss, where I actually had to show some initiative, where the fight is different from week to week. Ever played the same chess game twice with an experienced player?

        Eh, I understand the draw for a 40-man raid, though. I'd rather play 32 on 32 Tribes, though.
      • Re:Turing (Score:5, Funny)

        by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:31PM (#15298607) Homepage
        You do know that the reason that "boss" encounters are what they are is that they were designed around the staggeringly dumb and predictable AI that most MMORPG mobs use. If the AI were particularly good then ten players on a "raid" should get all the challenge they need from running into a group of ten monsters of the same level.

        Since the games are all balanced around the AI, of _course_ changing the AI would unbalance them. The thing is that even if the encounter you described were to change all it would mean is that this sequence of events would follow:

        1) A few hundred people will scream bloody murder on the forums since they can no longer get free candy from the Easter Bunny just for showing up and following the same script that everyone has used since November of 2004.

        2) Regularly scheduled Loot Collection Visits will stop as everyone takes their toys and goes somewhere else for Ridiculously Easy Money.

        3) A few People With Too Much Time On Their Hands will actually try to figure out how they can beat the new, more challenging encounter. Eventually they will come up with some loophole or flaw in the AI's logic which allows them to win.

        4) The same hundred idiots will hear about this and continue to scream about how this only proves that Blizzard hates them and is in league with the girls who won't go to the Prom with them because the rewards haven't been changed.

        5) Then the servers will crash. Despite what the conspiracy theorists think this won't have anything to do with steps 1) through 4), it's just something that happens a lot.

    • Re:Turing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by joshdick ( 619079 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @10:26PM (#15298338) Homepage
      "Introduce random variables. I don't care if you have to build in mechanisms to your game that are illogical so that the AI sometimes goofs up. All humans are fallible at a certain point and if you have differing levels of predictability in your AI, the user will love it."

      Sure, NPCs should goof up now and again, but most of the time, they should at least be rational; they should always take steps not to die.

      That means:
      * No NPC should stand by idly as I charge toward it with weapons drawn.
      * If I swiftly and easily kill all N-1 enemies in a group, the Nth one ought to get a clue and run away with its tail between its legs, beg for mercy or at least try a different strategy.
      * No NPC should forget about me simply because I walk out of its view.
      * NPCs should use teamwork.

      Also, there should be variability among NPCs, even of the same type or class. For example, in "Halo," all Elites are the same, so once you figure out how to beat one, you'll be able to beat 'em all.
    • Re:Turing (Score:3, Informative)

      by xtracto ( 837672 )
      Yeah, I as the original poster are an AI researcher (currently trying to do my PhD). I read a really nice book about AI in videogames, I would recommend it a lot to anyone interested in that, it is called (mm could not find the name, I promise to add the name of the book tomrrow as it is in my house). Anyways, the book explains the different AI techniques currently used in the different kinds of games, which currently are very standard searching techniques.

      AI that learns. I am so sick of AI not keeping a lo
  • Adapting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:29PM (#15297838) Homepage
    I'd like to see game AI that adapts to the ability of the player(s). That way, someone with little patience could start playing and see a reasonable rate of success immediately, but still enjoy things later as they become more skilled.
  • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:30PM (#15297842)
    Why can't the game AI learn routes, etc. from the player? One of my biggest gripes with bots is that they either only follow a (few) set pattern, as opposed to a player displaying (to the game) many other diverse routes and locations.
    • Not just that, but learn from a couple different types of player.. Right now, the AI in most games seems to settle on one and only strategy to win. While learning from players is a step, the logical next step is to learn from several types of players.

      Say you're playing a FPS. Among players you have kamikazes, base campers, spawn campers, and the guys that run straight for a place to snipe the enemy, to name a few.

      How much more interesting would it be to say "AI1, you're a kamikaze. Go draw their fire. AI2,
  • I'd like to see... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 )

    ... A CHALLENGE!

    The only times I can recall game AI really impressing me was when I played Thief, Thief 2, System Shock 2 and Far Cry. Not all the games' AI have high 'wow factor' now but at the time they rocked.
    • What are you talking about? SS2 didn't have AI, just terrifying atmospherics and cunning placement of creatures. The "AI" had two settings, "run at you and kill you" and "shoot at you from a distance".

  • by snookumz ( 919796 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:39PM (#15297872)

    The developers of Red Steel for the new nintendo wii said that they upped the AI players combat skills, because the new controller allowed faster and more accurate aiming than a traditional controller. They're point was that game AI is usually braindead to make it reasonable to the players who are slightly hindered by an unnatural interface. It's common in video games for a character to stand without any cover at the end of a long hallway. This isn't because the programmers couldn't program the AI to look for cover. Game characters aren't often built to be tactical, because they'd creme the gamer. That's my take.

    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:46PM (#15298666) Homepage
      Very True.

      You really don't want artificial intelligence. You want the game to behave in a way that seem plausably intelligent but are actually beatably stupid. It's much more exciting to be swarmed by 7 or 8 nameless mooks who die at the end of your sword than to spend 1/2 hour chasing down one guy who keeps hiding behind cover, shooting you from the back, and running away when injured.

      Game AI isn't about AI any more than buildings in games are about livable architecture. AI is part of the illusion, but a small part. You have enemy groups that have goals, and feelings, and tendencies. And it's your job to kill them all. Or make them all like you. Or roll them up into a giant ball. Or what not. But they can't be too good at whatever it is they're trying to do, or the player's actions won't matter.

      When AI is good, it takes center stage. It plays like it is the most important thing in the world, and to it... it is. But the player is what matters. And for the player to matter, he cannot generally be working against AI that is too powerful.

      THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, it would be good to have better AI for NPC characters working with the player. NPC's that can figure out what the player's goals are. NPC's that can run through a level without bumping into freaking walls (Twenty years later and they STILL DO THAT!). They can't be too intelligent, or the player won't have anything to play, but they shouldn't be completely dumb either... An RTS where the player's commanders on the ground made tactical decisions based upon the enemy they were facing and the location they had been deployed to would be great. Imagine playing a game where you tactically deploy intelligent units, rather than micromanage the dumb shoot-and-runners we have now.

      And for story-based games, it would be great to have more complex emotional simulators. Games like Oblivion or Final Fantasy fall down because simple human interactions are actually quite complex, and having characters that may care in heavily pre-scripted ways is a little dry. If you constantly take Tifa's materia and give it to Cloud, those two characters are eventually going to develop animosity. If character B keeps getting killed and character A keeps resurrecting them, a bond of either friendship or jealousy will form, depending on their internal states.

      It would also be good to have some form of AI toolkit abstracted out. AI middleware, so to speak. I know they exist, but I also know they suck.

      As a side note:

      An AI research student came over to one of the companies that I had worked at. He was really excited to talk to the game AI programmer and find out what he did. "Do you use genetic algorithms? Adaptive data structures? Neural network pattern recognition?" The programmer looked over at him. "Uh... kid? We use timers."

      • Actually, I would like to chase one guy for a half hour. I always liked chasing the Thief-bot in Descent II. It would sneak up on you and steal a weapon, then run away and do it again.
      • You really don't want artificial intelligence. You want the game to behave in a way that seem plausably intelligent but are actually beatably stupid.

        Depends on the game, ofcourse. AI isn't all that interesting to FPSs and standard CRPGs, but I like strategy games, and there, even the best AI is just painfully stupid. I want strategy AI that doesn't need to cheat, get special bonuses or gang up on me in order to beat me. When I play Stars! against real humans, I have to work hard in order to outsmart the

    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @03:03AM (#15299209) Journal
      The fact is, a mouse allows perfectly good aiming to snipe a player circle strafing and ducking behind cover, and some of them have damn good reflexes. In my CS and UT days I had no problems turning and accurately headshotting a player crouched behind some crates in a split second, and I'm nowhere near the best player out there. Or I haven't heard of anyone having problems with the bots in Noone Lives Forever, which _do_ take cover. At any rate, the mouse was perfectly fast and accurate for that.

      So I'm supposed to believe that only against bots is a mouse so slow that the bot has to stand still in the open to be hittable at all? Heh.

      Want a more natural controller? How about a lightgun? Those existed for ages, and some of them (e.g., Namco's) had nearly pixel accuracy. They can be moved around with a flick of the wrist, just like the Wii controller. And if holding it like that had any kind of advantage, noone's keeping you from holding some lightguns by the barrel and using the button on the side to shoot.

      So, please. The Wii controller may have its advantages, but (like anything else even vaguely computer- or console-related) it also has a bunch of shameless marketroids behind it. Tho'll cheerfully claim any absurdity if it helps sell their snake oil. Use your own brains when reading such patently absurd statements.

      The limit was _never_ how fast or accurate the mouse is, but how fast and accurate the player is. And if the AI was dumbed down in a lot of games, I can also tell you why:

      1. Because of player skill constraints. It's not that the mouse isn't fast enough, it's that the average gamer in your target market segment _isn't_ Thresh or Fatality. You can't throw 20 perfectly skilled opponents at them and expect the average player to track them all and handily dispatch them all. More importantly, the gameplay isn't a deathmatch where you just respawn when shot either: in most single-player FPS, if you got killed, it's game over and you need to reload. You don't want the casual gamer to _need_ to save before each corner, and reload 5 times before he manages to shoot before the bot headshots him. Because that's just no fun.

      So even if you do program the bot to take cover, you still must make it easy enough to kill by a casual gamer. You have to just give the impression that the bot is playing well, not actually have it play well.

      Contrary to uneducated belief, making a bot unpredictable and have 100% accurate aim takes no skill at all. The first is just a matter of using a random number generator, and the second is elementary maths: take the bot's position, take the target position, set the gun to point exactly along that vector. There you go: a deadly aim that never misses. That's not what's hard to program. But what you really want it to stand out of cover at regular intervals that the player can learn, and spend several seconds missing, so Joe Average has the time to aim and dispatch him.

      2. Even more importantly, because of budget constraints. _The_ reason FPS exploded in the '90 wasn't because everyone wanted to play only that, it was because they were _cheap_ to produce. You could make a profit even if you sold less copies. You could license a 3D graphics engine, hack together a few levels and a couple of skins, and call it a game. Unlike RPGs and adventures which needed lots of scripting, animations, and occasionally AI, a FPS was cheap to produce precisely _because_ it didn't bother with those.

      So noone was going to spend more money on one. Definitely not on ellaborate AI and character interactions, and not on the myriad of animations needed for the bots to take cover behind corners, crates, pillars, or upturn tables when nothing else is available.

      3. Because of CPU power constraints. Let me tell you how those "minimum requirements" on a game box are born: the marketting guy, yours or the publisher's, comes and tells you: "studies say that 10% of people still have a 286, so our game must be 16 bit and run on a 12 MHz 286." That's an actual q
      • Great points, but with one (tiny) flaw in your argument. Your talking about Mouse vs Wii, and the original poster was talking about wii versus joypad. The reason Halo was "Meh" on the PC was because it was designed with the slower joypad in mind. With the mouse it's a lot easier to have enemies above and below you, which isn't the case with a joypad.

        People are excited by the Wii because the remote offers the ability to almost match, match or supass the speed, accuracy and crucially fun that a mouse and ke

    • Years ago I developed a simple game prototype for a tennis/pong/sport style game. I had planned to do a number of basic AI tricks then dumb them down afterwards to make it fair. The thing is that the very first bit of code I put into the AI, which did nothing more than calculate direction to a moving target (ignorant of distance, time or other players blocking the path) completely blew me off the field; I had no chance of winning with the computer having even the simplest of AI's.
      Imagine a basketball game w
  • I haven't played an unreal game in a little while (Except against humans) but last time I did, there were bots shooting me from across the map with a pulse rifle while I was dodging around, and they never missed. Bots should not depend on level design to make sure they don't whip your ass every time. They should be within the fallibility range of humans.
    • Unreal bots tend to have better than expected accuracy to compensate for their lack of 'creativity'. They just don't have the same kind of thinking power as a human player, so they have better aim and faster reactions to try and make up the difference. It does kind of suck on wide open maps where every enemy is a deadly sniper, but the very simple solution is to turn the difficulty down a notch.

      Infact, Unreal has long supported a feature request i've seen mentioned in other posts on this topic - difficul
  • FramSticks [alife.pl]

    Here is a great example of Artificial Life that generates truly unexpected behavior during runs. Perhaps this type of Alife simulation could be an inspiration for a new generation of game AI. Do not program a location and series of behavior patterns, instead make a population of AIs based on a variety of physical forms. Each form will have a limited set of possible movements within a the simulated world. It will need inputs in order to determine friend and foe, perhaps something similar to limited vision and hearing. It will need survival as a baseline goal. They will also need "food" of some sort. Perhaps the player or other, different, AIs can represent a food source. Give it some form of sex in order to reproduce its learned behavior through some genetic mechanism.

    I suspect a hardware physics chip would help tremendously. But what I've seen of FramSticks was pretty damn cool. I have no idea how well it could be incorporated into AI gaming though. So this is just one of those: *shrug* hey, what about this? type of posts from someone ignorant and totally out of the field.
  • Nethack has some of the best AI in any game, hands down. More games could learn from Nethack how to have creatures that are smart (like Jubelix, or a shopkeeper you have stolen from) and other actors (like pets) that do what you want them to, mostly, but still have enough brains to make gameplay fun.

    Nethack: AI that's Int: 20 in my book.
    • Dunno about that (I never got hooked on Nethack), but that reminds me of how impressed I am with Wolfenstein 3d's AI. It just goes to show you that AI need not be technically advanced to be good (although that surely helps). It just needs to keep you guessing. I liked how Wolfenstein did it because I never knew what the enemies were up to. They really moved around behind your back, so I could backtrack and find a roomful of bad guys where I expected none to be.
  • Radiant + tactics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ToasterofDOOM ( 878240 ) <d.murphy.davis@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:48PM (#15297906)
    For the most part, Oblivion's Radiant AI is more than I could have asked for. I love it that people have schedules and live out their own lives according to goals. Of course it has its rough edges, but it really is phenomenal. There is, however, one place it lacks more than others, and that is in combat. Sure, It's fine for a skill based RPG where split second decisions don't have the potential to turn the tide, but combat AI is something that only recently has really been stressed. There are far too few games where enemies actually plan out an attack and work as a team. Give me serious tactical processing in AI, plug it into a military shooter, and you've got me hooked.
    • Yeah, though one thing that really bugs me is that the AI will notice a fallen comrade and won't get distressed about it. I was shadowing through a cave of necromancers last night and picking them off one at a time and several times another necromancer would walk by a body and look at it and just keep walking. No "Hmm, Frank's dead... maybe I should investigate that or raise an alarm or something..." And if another AI bot notices me sneaking around and starts yelling, that should bring everyone in range run
      • Team AI and communication is a great addition, some games are getting better at this. If a bot is able to see or hear me, call for reinforcements and work together to kill me. Coordination between the bots makes an average bot a lot harder to kill. A near dead bot falling back while its teammates move forward would also help.
      • And if another AI bot notices me sneaking around and starts yelling, that should bring everyone in range running too. I'm pretty sure some of the Metal Gear AIs did this.

        A lot of the stealth-based FPS games do this now. I think I first saw it in No One Lives Forever, but I'd be surprised if that was really the first game to do this...
    • Heh, yeah. Radiant AI is fine for civilians (yeah, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn impressive), but the combat....

      Notes to all friendly Oblivion NPCs: If your buddy shoots big angry light-making spell thingy at big angry gonna-kill-you-all monster, don't get in between. It probably isn't healthy.

      Also (and this was, actually, the more frustrating one), if there's a bunch of you, and a large group of monsters in an area, do not, repeat, do *not* all go haring after different monsters that are very

      • There is an idiot at Betsheda and he is the designer. Oh and the person who includes a nipple in artwork in todays america.

        Who on earth could have thought that including friendly fire was a smart move? Especially in a hack and slash. In a ranged combat game where you aim your weapon it is possible if you make sure no friendlies are about to make a headlong rush into your line of fire. But how do you stop yourselve from hitting a friendly in a melee when you can't control your swing and everyone dances abo

  • by teh moges ( 875080 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:50PM (#15297913) Homepage
    The thing is, we don't always WANT to have smart/unpredictable AI. IN Goldeneye64 for example, half of the fun was learning where everyone was, and trying to beat your previous time for that level. If the NPCs are going to be in different spots everytime, then I can't be sure that my 2.20min run was any better or worse then my friend's 2.15min run, since I may have had to overcome more obsticles. Great storylines and AI make a great game. Time trials, high scores, and the ability to compete with other humans (whether comparing high scores or multiplayer) makes for an everlasting one. That being said though, AI for first person shooters NPC "grunts" should be easy to defeat. I don't want to have to do too much to escape from my jail cell in teh first level. I want to be able to defeat the guard by sidestepping his first shot and knocking him out. After that however, I want the opponent's force's higher characters to sidestep MY shots and knock ME out if I'm not careful enough. Games like Unreal Tournament have the right idea: the ability to shout orders at your NPC teammates in battle to get them to do things you want. Now, we may be a full console generation from being able to plug in a microphone and literally tell the AI that you want it to follow you around this corner and give you some cover fire, but I should be able to input a key sequence to tell it that. Likewise, the AI should be able to work out what your strengths have been throughout the last couple of deathmatchs and tell you that maybe you are better off going up top and snipering, which the AI covers you. OK, to summarise: At the start, I want predictability. Past those levels, I want the AI to play according to how I play, minimise the effects of my strengths, maximise the damage to my weaknesses.
    • If timetrials were half the fun for you, I'm sorry you didn't have enough friends for 4-person multiplayer. The designers didn't go through all that work just for you to do the same level over and over again trying to shave off seconds.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I want an AI that can do a convincing sex scene, that's different every time, and pays attention to what I want. Since I like to have sex with people I find interesting, I want the AI to be interesting, as well.

    I plan on waiting a few (but only a few) decades.
  • Honestly. Why can't the computer in Warcraft III figure out it needs to chop down some trees in order to reach me (for the few maps that isolate players in forests)?

    Also, most AI doesn't deal with running out of money/credits/gold very well. For example, in Warcraft, I like to have a big stock pile of gold when all the mines are depleted, so I can keep building units as necessary. The computer always seems to use whatever gold they have, so as soon as the mines collapse, they are stuck with whatever units t
  • by jon787 ( 512497 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:54PM (#15297926) Homepage Journal
    What I want in a war simulation [pointlesswasteoftime.com]
  • by Pluvius ( 734915 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `3suivulp'> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:54PM (#15297928) Journal
    But I'll tell you what I don't want to see: Dynamic AI. Or at least the kind of dynamic AI we see now-a-days. I'm talking about those racing games where you're beating the hell out of the computer driver but in the last lap or so he ends up becoming completely inhuman (perhaps even "cheating") and beating you or coming close to it. Stop that shit, it's not any fun.

    • This really bugs me too. It was fun in NFS 2, when you were playing network games against people of varying skill levels, but it's not fun when you're playing against the computer and have to win to move on. I hate how you can be in the same car as the computer, and yet they blaze past you, even though you're going at top speed.
    • Amen.

      The 2004-5 generation of EA sports titles was absolutely obnoxious with that trait. It came enabled by default, and made for countless vein-bulging moments as your NBA team, out ahead by 30 points in the fourth quarter, suddenly couldn't get a layup to go down. Meanwhile the other team's oafish third-string center is inexplicably draining deep three-pointers to close the gap. Not only was it frustrating, it just plain didn't look or feel like the game it was meant to imitate.

      EA games have extreme p

  • Maybe some intelligence would be a good start?
  • RTS games (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xolotl ( 675282 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:58PM (#15297946) Journal
    My personal preference is for RTS type games -- StarCraft, Age of ... series and the like -- and to be honest the AI in most of them is pretty poor (actually StarCraft is one of the better ones, despite it's age).

    So poor in fact, that on higher difficulty levels most of them resort to cheating in one way or another -- most commonly by upping the resource gathering/production rates (I've studied this by using cheat codes to show everything). Also, in many such games the AI plays 'perfectly' -- no mistakes as to when to develop which technologies, no problems controlling large numbers of units, and uncannily sending units just where I happened to be weakest for no reason (Age of Mythology seemed to be particularly bad at these sort of tricks). Having the computer cheat was no more fun than playing against a human who was using cheat codes, it ceases to be a battle of wits, which to me is what an RTS should be about.

    • by The Optimizer ( 14168 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:49PM (#15301925)
      I worked on the "Age of" games through Mythology, though not on the AI, and perhaps I can shed some light on what you were seeing. I know much less about the system used in Mythology, so things that were true for Age1 and Age2 may not be so for it.

      In each of those games, there were actually multiple 'AI systems' that comprised the "AI". This allowed for separation of short term goals from long term strategy and computer player personality, as well as for exploration, expansion and reaction to events such as being attacked.

      In all of the Age games, AI players could be put on your team as allies, or grouped in teams against other teams of AI players. You could reveal the map, and sit back and watch them duke it out against each other.

      The AI players always had an advantage over humans in terms of issuing order to units. In one 1/20 of a second turn, it could locate every unit that was idle, determine a task for it, and issue the task command.

      The AI players 'Age of' games I worked on did not ever cheat by creating resources out of thin air or get different gathering or building speeds. You could starve a computer opponent out of a resource. On the Harderst difficulty level, all AI players would get bonus resources at the start of the game (and possibly at the start of each age).

      Multiple AI players would work together in various ways; coordinating attacks, trading with each other, and even acting as a 'feeder' player.. going all economy and then tributing other AI players to boost them up quickly.

      In Age of Empires 1 & 2, the AI players did not look at your list of units of and buildings to determine what you had, where you were, and how to counter it. Same for the locations of resources. An AI Player had to see it first, before it was allowed to 'know' about and act on it. In the other big RTS games, this is defiantly not true as they just look at the global object list. For this reason, the 'Age of' AI sent out units specifically to scout the world map. Once noticed, the info would be shared with allied AI players.

      You could exploit this: if you were on an island, and never let any units go close enough to the water to be seen by AI ships, the AI players would never send any units to attack you, as it did not 'know' where any of your stuff was. Another way was to build in an area that the AI's had previously explored but were unlikely to wander back into. The line-of-sight distances in Age2 were increased to help keep this from handicapping the AI's too badly.

      One area where 'cheating' was necessary was path finding. If you took a unit, and told it to move to an unexplored location, a valid path would have to be computed, requiring that it know about unexplored obstacles. This could be exploited in some ways. If a wonder was surrounded by walls, yet there was hidden break in the wall somewhere, just pathing a unit from outside to the wonder, would make the unit take the break, even if it was in an unexplored area as it was moving along a validly computed path.

      I felt that we put much, *much* more work into making the 'Age of' AI's not cheat than most RTS games. What I learned from that though was that the public usually notice enough to care. A non cheating, general purpose AI often will not seem as 'intelligent' as an AI that cheats and has highly scripted or triggered events. The upside is that it allows the AI to play reasonably well on randomly generated maps; something most RTS games don't even bother to try.

  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:58PM (#15297948) Journal
    I have to guess how AIs are implemented in current software for this answer, and perhaps these already exist in some games. But I'm sure I haven't seen many.

    What I'd like to see is more AIs that are fed some concepts a priori, and then are able to manipulate those concepts in some way. Let me take a Civilization-type game as my example, since it is there I really wish I could see this.

    I'd like to see an AI that has some concept of "launching an attack", beyond just massing troops and attacking in force. I'd like to see it know about "pincer", and "distraction", and other such concepts, and then use those to simplify its planning phases. Traditional AI techniques are still a long way from being fed the rules of Civ and deriving such things de novo, so I'd like to see some cheating, not with resources but by not starting almost from scratch with planning.

    I'd like to see the computer have concepts of building a city vs. exploiting it, with corresponding "cheating" done in the computations, so the computer does a better job of building cities rather than just being handed resources to cheat. (Disclaimer: The last Civ game I played was Alpha Centauri, so maybe Civ 4 has addressed this, and cities actually get built; in AC it is not uncommon to take cities near the end of the game that have the AC equivalent of a Granary, and nothing else. However, I still bet human cities are still significantly better than computer-built cities. Feedback welcomed.)

    I'd like extensive simulations to be run by the game author to adjust the weights of these concepts by playing tournaments. I'd like to see the AI guys have some time to actually refine the AI post-release because there's just no other way you're going to get a good, balanced AI.

    While I've used Civ as an example, this generally extends to other genres reasonable well. In the FPS examples everyone is citing, I'm not sure about the exact concepts I'd choose, but what I'd like to see is the AI guys having time to load up some set of concepts and then firing a Genetic-Programming tournament at the concepts to see what happens, then iteratively refine the set of operators and concepts based on feedback from the results. (Most likely collapsing some obivously-useful trees into single nodes in some cases, breaking other concepts out, and adding new ones as needed.)

    GP could be really interesting here because that is known to produce some interesting interactions with differentiated participants; you could evolve an entire squad with specialized members relatively easily, if your program nodes were rich enough.

    Note: I'm not saying to run this on the client machine; GP techiniques would be inappropriate in general on a single, isolated client. On the other hand, for something like an XBox360 game played over live, that would be large enough to run a GP-based tournament against human players as "just another AI".

    I'm not sure that game AI needs much more than more respect and more resources allocated to it so that you can do something other than The Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work. The required ideas don't seem like they're that hard, it's just that they pretty much all involve having some time to work with them and not just slamming out code and shipping it.
    • by Jerf ( 17166 )
      From this post [slashdot.org]:

      Why can't the computer in Warcraft III figure out it needs to chop down some trees in order to reach me (for the few maps that isolate players in forests)?

      That's another good example concept: When considering how to get from here to here, consider whether you can "terraform" your way there successfully. This was another major AI weakness in Alpha Centauri, too; if you built a ring around a continent, the computer was effectively unable to get to you until they can build an air force, and they

    • I've never really understood this. When I play a game of Civ or AoK or StarCraft, I want the AI to be a challenge. I really don't care how it does that- extra resources, quicker unit building, whatever. SO long as it gets harder when I increase the difficulty slider, why does it really matter how it does it? Its going to be just as much a challenge either way, so in the end it doesn't really matter to me.
      • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:31PM (#15298079) Journal
        Because the easy way to beat this sort of AI is generally to find a trick or three that works, then ram the tricks down the AI's throat. The latter takes a bit of practice, admittedly, but compared to the level of skill necessary to beat a dedicated human opponent, the level of skill to defeat even a pumped up and cheating AI is much lower.

        What happens in Alpha Centauri is that as you pump up the AI's cheat factor, the only practical difference is that it affects the odds of AI stomping on me in the first hundred turns or not. Once I get established, the AI loses almost no matter what.

        I strongly suspect that this is a general pattern; as you throw resources at a bad AI, it gets linearly stronger, but at least in a Civ game, the human is getting geometrically stronger as the game progresses. The game at high cheat levels becomes a matter of luck, not skill.

        Moreover, it tends to limit the experiences the human can have, vs. the full range of what is possible. I know the AI will come at me with the screaming hordes in a single mass, because while it has resources, it can't do anything with them. I never get to experience setting up a proper, in-depth defense, because I only have to defend against the relatively small subset of the possible set of attacks that the computer knows how to launch, that sort of thing.

        I agree with you at low human skill levels, but a better AI really should provide a better gaming experience for moderate skill levels and above.
      • Well, yes and no. If its done well, then fine. But often it is done badly, and then is simply frustrating. Like when the computer overwhelms you with a fleet of [whatever] which you know is simply impossible for it to have built without cheating in the time available, based on rates of production and technology development (for simpler games this can be calculated easily enough).

        Worse, in some games the jump in difficulty due to this kind of cheating means that on one difficulty setting you defeat the com

      • Its going to be just as much a challenge either way, so in the end it doesn't really matter to me.

        So do you think an acceptable way to implement a higher level of difficulty would be to randomly discard some of your mouse clicks? To have some of your units spontaneously combust?

        Part of the appeal of winning a game is facing an opponent on even terms. A somewhat spurious proposition to begin with when facing a computer, but I find it more interesting to fight "smarter" enemies rather than just "more" or "tou

    • FEAR uses this to really good effect. They called it Goal Orientated Action Planning - you can look up their presentations on gamasutra. It's a super-interesting system - your AI is given a Goal (kill the player being an obvious one) and has several actions that can achieve that goal - including things like Call for Backup, Change Weapon to Something Stronger, Throw Grenade, etc etc.
  • Creatures (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xolotl ( 675282 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:05PM (#15297968) Journal
    Nobody has meantioned Creatures [wikipedia.org] yet ... simple neural net brains, genetics, learning (even from each other!) and all sorts of other behaviour, all done some ten years ago.

    Unfortunately, all the current FPS/RTS etc etc games have ignored this completely.

    • Nobody has meantioned Creatures

      Creatures was great, and that sort of thing works fine in a sim, but it isn't easily translated to tactical/strategy games.

      Besides, Creatures made some short-cuts too. As far as I know, it wasn't just NN+genetics, it was NN+genetics to tune known factors in an unchanging algorithm. Still, cute idea.

  • Make it so that it feels like I am playing against / with other other humans. Some of them are good, some are bad. Some are utterly clueless, some strategize well. Some have very good aim, some are pretty poor. Everything should have some random element to it so that even very good AI's can botch, and even poor ones can make that one in a million shot. Make most of them "average" in skill. Make them adaptive, so that they learn my habits and change tactics to counter / complement them. DON'T allow them to d
  • stop these tactics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cbc1920 ( 730236 )
    For single player FPS games, I usually have a lot of fun. When things get tough, I invariably fall back on the following tactics. They depend only on the stupidity of the AI and its inability to learn:

    1. Choke point: stupid AI's eventually run through a door, even if there are 20 of them and even if the last 5 guys to walk through the door are laying in a pile suffering from headshots. Can they figure out the pattern here?

    2. Distract to higher firepower: you think the AI would wonder why the player is leadi
    • I was in a beta for a FPS from novalogic. It was fun until the kiddies got in but even at the best of times you had wonder if you were playing bots or real humans.

      The game had vehicles including the very desirable choppers.

      I like being an evil sniper. No I don't camp because that gets you killed (well only if there is a enemy player with an IQ above room temperature) so I move between shots. Or if the enemy is from america, between clips.

      What happened?

      Well spawns and runs to the airport to obviously cat

  • by silvermorph ( 943906 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:17PM (#15298022)
    AI isn't currently fun. It's used mostly as a difficulty slider. And when it's doing its most impressive things, I don't see it happening, so I don't care. So I want two things from AI: I want to know what it's doing, and I want to be the cause of what it's doing.

    1) If I've got a bunch of bots on my team, and I rush out like a madman, I want them to be completely suicidal as well, or maybe cover me. And I want them to say "covering you" as they do it, so I don't go sit behind a rock as soon as I hear gunfire.
    2) If I'm sneaking up on some AI enemy, I want the AI to recognize that I'm sneaking up on it, and then LET ME SNEAK UP ON IT. Maybe it notices that I'm right next to something I can duck behind, so it shuffles its feet and slowly looks around back towards me, giving me just enough time to respond.
    3) If I'm in a deathmatch, I want clever, flawed, fair bots. Bots that know good spots to fight from, but get up and move after a kill or two. Bots that aim poorly when I get the jump on them they just picked up their mouse in panic.
    4) If I'm fighting a squad of enemies, I want to overhear their communication somehow so that I don't think they're looking through walls waiting for me. And I want them to react slowly to what I'm doing, not instantaneously.

    I want my AI to be fun, and I want it to be pretty obvious it's being fun.

  • "As someone working in new (bio-inspired) AI research with an eye to applications in games, but within an academic setting, I often hear that game developers are not incorporating cutting-edge academic AI into their projects because it's too "risky" (they can't really predict how gamers would react), and because they don't see the point in it.

    That is not the correct reason - in reality, they don't know how to implement it within the ultra-short time frame.

    Gamers will react favourably to properly implemen

  • I'll admit I haven't played the latest-and-greatest games, so maybe teamwork AI has improved, but it always seemed to me that some fairly simple rulesets could dramatically improve enemy AI. Getting the bad guys to coordinate, lay down covering fire, simulate communication through phones or walkie talkies, try and cut you off, flank you, try and trap you into a corner, sneak up behind you, all kinds of basic stuff that could be randomly selected from a weighted ruleset based on character type (ie rank, wea
  • by vaporakula ( 674048 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:27PM (#15298059)
    I'm a game designer, working on a next gen title, specifically focussing on AI. (yes, it's at e3, and yes, i'm exhausted as a result! excuse any incoherence...)

    Here's my perspective on things.

    First, you really need to focus on a genre. The gameplay desires and thus AI desires are completely divergent between, say, a Poker AI and an Racing game AI. There are some commanalities though, which I think lay in an interesting area to be studying...

    The point is that your opponent should be human.

    All too often, game AIs are purely robotic. You can't surprise them. You can't outwit them. They don't show cunning, they don't show fear, they don't interact with each other - they lack emotions.

    Having a bot in a FPS is all well and good, but if at the first sound of a footstep behind it, it whips around with perfect precision and starts firing - it is next to useless. It won't satisfy a player - it doesn't give the same thrills as sneaking up behind a human player.

    Study the behavior of humans in your chosen genre: see how they react, the ways they interact, the ways they try to play the game against each other - and use this as a foundation for building an AI.

    I think there is a severe lack of emotional response in current game AI. Building an opponent with emotional model, that directly affects their chosen actions, would lead to some interesting results.

    Of course, good AI is nothing without an appropriate means of displaying the results... for instance, back to the FPS - if you can't tell the difference between a bored opponent and an alert one, the player will never appreciate your efforts!
    • Study the behavior of humans in your chosen genre: see how they react, the ways they interact, the ways they try to play the game against each other - and use this as a foundation for building an AI.

      Depends on the kind of game, really. For a game of chess or poker, you're definitely right. For tournament style FPS your assumption still holds. However, when I play Quake 4, I expect the enemies to behave like believable strogg soldiers, while for a game like Unreal Tournament I want them to behave like be

  • This isn't AI in the normal sense, but neither is it a problem that you can solve by simply adding more frames of animation. Animation in video games still looks rather awful, you have some motion capture here, some hand animated there, but most of the time you see in the game is blending of all that stuff together and it never really fits, characters feet don't land on stairs but they always glide up the stairs like it would be normal ground, when running against a wall the feeds often continue to move and
  • Uh never forget: the games have to at least be somewhat _enjoyable_.

    Enjoyable != super opponent.

    If you really have a "smart" computer opponent, it will make many popular genres (FPS, hack and slash RPGs, RTS) much harder. It would be hard for most human players to defeat many computer opponents.

    Making a really "smart" game opponent does not need major advances in AI (IMO the AI field has not made significant progress anyway - rather dismal lot). Given the narrow boundaries of most games, game makers can "ha
  • What Would You Like to See from Game AI?

    What I tell it to open the pod bay door, it had damn well better open the effing door!
  • by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:43PM (#15298130)

    And will continue to be low priority until the result of graphics and sound is indistinguishable from reality (another 5 to 10 years). Once all the eye- and ear-candy has been exhausted, then the game designers will have nothing left to do but enhance gameplay; one element of which is AI.

    FPS and RTS games don't need highly sophisticated AI compared to RPG's. If developers wanted to (read: saw the business), sufficient AI from for FPS/RTS games could be achieved in 2-3 years.

    An RPG needs AI capable of sustaining social interactions (at personal, econoomic, and political levels) between any 2 or more agents, in both speech and in writing. When a virtual population can sustain its society (then grow/adapt/react to stimuli) without the presence of players, then a true RPG is possible.

    How cool would it be if you could walk through town in [insert fantasy franchise] and overhear the conversation between the butcher and the blacksmith's wife? Think of the ways quest hooks could be handled with such a mechanism. Your character is now the commander of legions, and it all started with eavesdropping in a tavern. Who hasn't played a D&D game that involved such a scenario?

    (Psst... levels don't work at this scale... stop relying on them)

    Eye candy sells games. Game play keeps the players interested. The more dynamic (and balanced) the game play, the better the game and the longer the player will (wait for it)... play. One player gets bored? Publisher just lost $10 per month. 10,000 players get pissed off because the mechanics get over-tweaked by a patch? Publisher lost $100,000 a month.

  • As a game developer, here's something I've seen several times: A gifted AI programmer puts together a complex, ambitious system to govern AI behaviors. The system is elegant and probably involves lots of interesting problems.

    However, because the focus was on the system rather than the output, the behaviors on-screen don't actually reflect any of that. A character could be dynamically evaluating its environment, weighing its tactical options, and interpreting a complex set of stimuli, but all the player se
    • That's an example of a gifted programmer making a bad AI. A good AI isn't one that uses fancy algorithms under the hood. A good AI is one that (as you describe) makes effective use of the actions available to it. In my opinion, the mark of a good AI is that you don't know what it's going to do next. In so many games enemies just come at you with no variation. I'd rather have just a few that would take cover, try to draw me out, and sneak up behind me than have a horde of morons.
      • That's an example of a gifted programmer making a bad AI. A good AI isn't one that uses fancy algorithms under the hood. A good AI is one that (as you describe) makes effective use of the actions available to it. In my opinion, the mark of a good AI is that you don't know what it's going to do next. In so many games enemies just come at you with no variation. I'd rather have just a few that would take cover, try to draw me out, and sneak up behind me than have a horde of morons.

        You know, that makes me th
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:55PM (#15298187)
    I know first hand that it's possible to write excellent combat AI as an ordinary (though long) nested list of conditionals. I'd call that hard-coded intelligence. This is the sort of thing I'm pretty good at (for example, the smart Irenicus in the Ascension mod for BG2, who's deadly without cheating). I have a feeling that most gamers are satisfied by this sort of AI if it's really done well, so that smart NPC's really fight smart.

    But real AI has to involve some sort of learning, which is to say, letting game events "write" your behavior script. When would this be useful? The best example I can think of: Entirely stable environments that are "alive". Current games give you staged non-equilibrium situations that get triggered when your PC enters the scene. This sort of thing is just very obvious and unsatisfying if the goal is immersion. What good AI might do is this: before the game is released, the various separate settings might be populated with a bunch of artificial-life characters with specific motivations, needs, preferences, etc. (Maybe like the Sims, except more complex psychologically.) Then the game authors would let this initial system reach an equilibrium their big server. If they don't like the equilibrium that was produced, they tweak the initial AI and try again. Eventually, this will produce in a "natural" way something like a small, functioning village. When a PC enters the village, it will have been in an equilibrium which the actions of the PC will disrupt, almost certainly in unpredictable ways. That is how you give the player a true sense of freedom, like their actions really matter. Somebody like me might wonder: What would happen if I steathily killed the village miller, or gave him a gigantic horde of treasure, etc? That sort of scenario is impossible to play out in current games. And that sucks.

    Now granted, writing Artificial Life that reaches an equilibrium similar to a real village, and still manages to react believably when a PC shows up may be a tall order, but I absolutely think it's a goal worth shooting for. For one thing, since many of the A-life interactions will happen in mutual isolation, the processing could be easily broken up into separate threads. Also, it's worth mentioning that this is not an all-or-nothing affair. If the equilibrium state produced at the end of several A-life generations is not exactly what you wanted, it's OK to slightly tweak the end result. The effect will still be much more convincing than the "village/dungeon/colony/factory eternally frozen in a moment until a PC triggers it."

    One last bit: If you want to make AI characters seem realistic, maybe a good place to start is with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Start there and build on that foundation. Everybody puts self-preservation ahead of other priorities, and so should AI. Ditto for all the other stuff on the hierarchy. So for example, if a fire I started destroys your hut, you will interrupt your routine to seek shelter, because this is your highest priority. For this, you may need to interact with other A-life, who might offer you a place to stay, financial help, or help with constructing a new hut - all for their own reasons, that depend on how much they like you, how likely they think you are to reciprocate, etc. If you saw me kill the miller, you will tell the other villagers, who may decide to ambush and capture you. How does a game produce that sort of behavior? Well, for one thing, planning requires some sort of awareness of expected consequences. But this should not be hard for a computer to do. It would guess that the PC would resist any attempt at capture, and it can (in the background) play out several "what if" scenarios compare their outcome to the goals of the villagers. This should show that a haphazard attack is a bad idea. Now it may look like I'm asking for a crazy amount of processing power. Maybe, but remember, we'll all have many CPU's to work with in the near future, so the ones that aren't running the game can be computing these "what if" scenarios. Also

    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @04:09AM (#15299393) Journal
      Most worlds are unsustainable and utterly unrealistic because... they've been designed that way. Not because some imperfect AI decided to put his fortress half-way into a hill, where people can walk over the wall. Most worlds are designed as just "levels" for the player to conquer, and no thought is given to what would that town do when the player isn't around.

      But here's my take: it's not actually necessary for the NPCs to actually _do_ that stuff while the player isn't around. I don't really care if an NPC has been sleeping, sweeping his floor, and restocking his shop when I'm not around, or if he just got spawned in the right point for that time of day when I entered the level.

      Games are just about creating an illusion, and an illusion is perfectly good for me. What's missing is any attempt to even bother about that illusion.

      E.g., if a tribe is presented as having fought for grazing land (e.g., the Tauren in WoW), I want them to either be able to graze themselves or have cattle. I want their culture, their myths, etc, to reflect that. There are (not-so-subtle) differences between a hunter-gatherer society and an agriculture/animal-husbandry society, so a tribe that fought for grazing land for their cattle damn better not act like they're hunters-gatherers. I want their towns or settlements to have stables. I want their economy and their quests to reflect that. (E.g., while mystical and ancestor worship concernns are good and fine, surely a lot of their peasants would worry about more mundane stuff like cattle thieves or wolves or land conflicts, because they're a more immediate threat to their livelyhood.)

      E.g., in Morrowind if a town has built city walls, then I want someone to sit and think what did the citizens try to solve with that. Building and maintaining a city wall was a _huge_ expense, so noone would do it just for decoration sake. So I want it to be a functional defense. Maybe it would actually need city gates too, not just some wide arches that either enemies or wild animals can just walk through. Maybe it would need ramparts, towers, or other suitable places for the defenders on that wall. (An undefended wall, anyone can just prop a ladder against and climb over.)

      E.g., if the Imperials there built a fortress, what did they try to achieve with it? Maybe placing it on _top_ of a hill would server that goal better than placing it between two hills and half-way into one of them. If anyone can climb an easy slope to the top of the hill and rain arrows _downwards_ into the fortress, then wth purpose do those walls serve? Doubly so if continuing to walk over the hill gets one neatly over the walls and into the fortress.

      Or what are the logistics of such a place? If you read for example Sun Tzu, armies used to cost a _lot_ and could even break an economy. Maybe they'd need to be regularly supplied, for example? There'd be a whole economy supplying a nearby fortress with wood, weapons, food, ore and coal if they have their own smith, etc. Which is why IRL even a small castrum often evolved into a major city. A whole economy basically evolved around it and in turn depended on it for protection. Important or wealthy merchants would eventually be granted or bought the right to have a house _in_ the fortress, either for the services they provided or just because they were willing to pay for it.

      And so on. Basically, again, I don't care if the NPCs actually do anything when I'm not around. All I want is an illusion that those places _could_ realistically function as places for the NPCs to live in, and not just as levels for me to conquer.
  • The academic community has developed an intense interest in games beyond board games as a platform for AI research over the past few years. There are a couple of dedicated conferences (AIIDE,CIG) and special sessions at others (e.g., CEC).

    DARPA was briefly interested in funding that kind of stuff a couple of years back, but someone suddenly decided not to go there. Academics are betting that they'll be back due to the obvious utility in training tools [wikipedia.org], as well as basic AI research.
  • Better interaction and cooperation with other ai and the player. AI with goals that may make a traitor out of it is a despirate situation. AI that would give your position away because it doesn't want to die. AI that will bargain with its enemies to gain the upperhand, whether its rooting the player out or surviving that encounter. AI that is afraid to die; not just opposed to dieing. Perhaps its too much to ask for AI with a higher set of goal-oriented mental processes, but that's what I want to see.
  • by Jonah Hex ( 651948 ) <hexdotms@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:01PM (#15298490) Homepage Journal
    Let's travel back to the heady first days of Ultima Online, when they had a spawn system that approximated real world birth-life-reproduction-death cycles. Unfortunately the player population couldn't FIND any mobs to fight, the spawn was too realistic and couldn't cope with the artificial nature of players screwing up their routines. Old spawn system trashed, new spawn system based on timers goes into place, problem solved.

    The way things work in the real world is not nessesarily a good basis for a game.
    Jonah HEX
    • I tried to design something like that for a friend's MUD -- unfortunately, though, it never went anywhere, and I crashed his computer a couple of times trying to get my scripts to work. My plan was to have a little ecosystem going on where the monster population would always be replenished if necessary from some other source. I'm not talking about "spawns", per se, merely a naturally reproducing population that is in some way safe from the players.

      The idea comes from basic ecology: if you have a closed
      • I hope you realize that:

        1. You don't actually need an eco-system to create the illusion you describe. If all the reproduction happens behind the scenes anyway, and the most a user ever witnesses is the baby badgers crawling out of a hole in the ground, then you don't actually need parent badgers in that hole. The hole itself can be just a monster generator (a concept that existed for two decades) which spawns badgers crawling out of it. The player is free to imagine that some parent badgers must exist in th
  • I want more ninjas and pirates, and fewer robots and monkeys.

  • Let us take the simple game of tic-tac-toe (three by three) as our game space. Not too hard. Tic-tac-toe, checkers

    Jonathan Schaffer also thought that checkers was simple. Years of effort building Chinook [ualberta.ca] fixed that. He just announced after ~17 years of effort that three of the ~150 3-move ballot openings are draws, and I'm just amazed that he managed that. It's *not* a simple game- it only looks like it.

  • It's a common misperception that game AI developers are not up on the state of the art in AI research. Most game AI developers are well read, and read not just the books, but also various journals related to the topic. The problem is that there just isn't enough CPU time or memory available for games to make interesting use of any techniques that are not already being used. There are games built using long term development of neural nets, but there's not the computation speed needed to train the neural n
  • Play Galactic Civilizations 2 and you will understand what game AI should be.
  • One of my favorite uses of AI in MUDs I made in the good old text days was using it for non-character intelligence such as making tools for generating quests in a way that responded to how the players behaved, weather patterns, etc. Current RPGs and online games are fricken boring. Quests and tasks are very canned and they don't really behave like a real living world in which magic is alive and good and evil clash.

    One of my favorite toys was an oracle ball that when users used it would predict future events
  • I like my games easy. Or, even if they're hard, I like to completely overwhelm my enemies, even if it's a challenge to do so. So I don't really see the need for better enemy AI, though I'm sure many of the more competitive types will.

    I want bots that work better together, especially on my team.

    This makes it incredibly hard to adjust difficulty, of course. I remember hearing about a similar problem with the Lord of the Rings movies: in the Battle for Helm's Deep, the problem was in adjusting the relative
  • "I often hear that game developers are not incorporating cutting-edge academic AI into their projects because it's too "risky" (they can't really predict how gamers would react), and because they don't see the point in it."

    One huge reason why cutting-edge academic AI isn't popular in today's games is QA. Debugging learning AI is a nightmare.

    Another reason is not enough time, development or CPU. When you have only 10% of the CPU and 6 months, a FuSM may be the best you can do.

    Add to this the fact that,

  • I can point out two categories of games for which the goals of AI are dramatically different: strategy games and role playing games.

    In strategy games, challenge is the most important aspect to be desired in AI. All other aspects like realism or flavor should be sacrificed if they weaken the playing strength of the AI. In a strategy game, the AI is just another challenger in a battle of wits, perhaps taking the place of another human. The AI needs to be perfectly ruthless and clever. Because, frankly, in mos
  • First off, something very very simple. An AI that doesn't cheat in obvious ways. The recent most blatant example of AI cheating I saw was in Advance Wars : Dual Strike (DS game). It is a turnbased strategy game and you earn cash to spend on units based on the number of bases you control. 1000 per base. In one game the AI owned 8 bases and indeed the money counter for him showed an income of 8000. Nonetheless for several rounds he bought a tank + artillery + recon. A bill off about 15.000

    A very obvious chea

  • There are basically two different kinds of AI: opponent AI and neutral AI. Opponent AI decides on fighting moves, neutral AI decides on everyday behaviour. Both are hard, but in a different way.

    Opponent AI is hard because the AI is matched against the rational skills of a human player, who wants an opponent that does not cheat and that is of about the same level as he is, but that still poses a challenge. Well, that is nigh impossible to create because humans are inventive and game AI is not. It is not that

  • I'd like to see an RTS AI based on military command structure.

    The AI would be shaped like a tree.

    At the top, there would be a strategic AI controlling resource management and making high-level strategic decisions like whether to rush, guns/butter, etc.

    It would have a certain number of sub-generals, each of which might have a different sector of the map or some other division method.

    Each general would control a certain number of companies. Now, these generals might be just AI objects, or they might be conne
  • In an FPS, I'd like to see (whether as campaign NPCs or multiplayer bots):
    • AIs that actively hunt for me once they know I'm there, but do so within the limits of their 'senses', rather than just homing in on my co-ordinates.
    • AIs that don't 'forget' I'm there just because I evaded them for 30 seconds, even though I slaughtered 20 of their friends right in front of them.
    • AIs that communicate with each other - if I'm causing trouble in Area A of a map, the NPCs will call for help from Area E - and when I reach

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